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Challenging My "Computer" Brain

special-needs-stories-child-at-computerI view my brain as a computer, simple on the outside, but on the inside, there’s a complex machine. Only my machine has a broken circuit. Some may say that fact makes my computer obsolete or not worth anything, but I view it differently, I see it as a gift. I see it as a gift because my computer does everything that normal computers do even with a broken circuit, and it allows me to see the world in a different light than most people do.
2011 Anne Ford & Allegra Ford Scholar Eleigha Love found inspiration in talking with others who also have dyslexia. The encouragement she received from them helped to drive her towards greater challenges and rewarding successes.
At first I didn’t understand why I had been diagnosed with dyslexia. “Why am I different?  Why can’t I read like all my other friends?” Those were some of the constant questions I asked myself after I first found out about my disability. As time went on, I accepted my disability and learned that I wasn’t the only one who struggled with it. In fact, one of the teachers my mom taught with has adult twin daughters who are also dyslexic. They agreed to talk to me and share their experiences with me. I was inspired instantly.They also persuaded me to enter the MTA [Multisensory Teaching Approach] spelling bee for the first time. (This is a spelling bee in our school district that is held yearly for dyslexic students.) I left with a gold medal, and the courage to continue to learn how to compensate for my dyslexia. The twins still encourage me to this day.

From there, my success continued to thrive. Once I entered high school, I decided to challenge myself further by taking Latin as my foreign language. After being awarded the Best Latin 1 Student during my freshman year, I continued all the way through Latin 2, entered the Latin competition, and received a first- and fourth-[place award] at [the] area [level] and fifth in the state [contest]. That wasn’t my only success; I received commended performance on my tenth [grade] and exit-level grade English/Language Arts TAKS test [the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills], with a perfect score of four on the writing section. (This is our state’s mandated test that is required [in order] to graduate.) [It’s] hard to believe, given that during my first years of taking the test, I had to have it read to me. With all my successes, I then decided to challenge myself even more by graduating from high school one full year early. I will reach that goal when I graduate on June 12, 2011, at the age of 17. (I will turn 17 in May.)

Video: A Dyslexic Teen Speaks Out

{m4vremote width="650" autostart="true" popup="true" divid="mypopup"}http://www.policyimpact.com/NCLD/AliyahStory.m4v{/m4vremote}Eleigha describes how her frustrations in school were relieved when she was finally identified as having dyslexia. {avrpopup type="lightbox" id="mypopup"}Watch now >{/avrpopup}
After high school I plan to attend one of the colleges I’ve been accepted to: University of Central Oklahoma, Sam Houston State University or Spelman College, and study Criminal Justice and Substance Abuse Studies. I chose this field because I learned that many of those who are incarcerated are very bright individuals who have undetected or untreated learning disabilities and weren’t taught that they could do whatever any other “normal” student could do. They didn’t learn the skills to compensate and advocate for themselves, so many turned to alcohol, drugs, and crime to cope and survive. I was able to learn about this during a Criminal Justice camp at Sam Houston State University that I attended during the summer of 2010. I was personally chosen after sending an application, essay, and letters of recommendation by my principal and history teacher. I’d specifically like to work with juvenile offenders, giving them hope that they can succeed and become productive members of society by helping them learn to read and to learn self-advocacy.

Now that I’m older, I truly realize the impact that those twin girls had on me (both of them are now teachers). Because they inspired me, I now mentor kids [who] have dyslexia in hopes that I can have an impact on their lives and help make their struggle easier. Not only that, but I also go back to the MTA spelling bee every year and my parents and I provide assistance and gifts for student participants and teacher mentors. Now that I have my driver’s license, I plan to volunteer at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital in Dallas, TX, where I was first diagnosed with dyslexia, where they explained to me in terms that I could understand what dyslexia means and how I could cope with it. They provided our family a wealth of resources, which I now share with others. I even met a family in a Boston airport who lives in Canada and because I shared my story, they received the help they needed for their daughter upon their return. I am also a member of my high school’s chapter of the Circle of Friends, an organization where general education students befriend and mentor special needs students.

I am thankful that when we moved from Michigan to Texas, before we knew I was dyslexic, my parents moved into a community where the school district offers a program to meet the need of its dyslexia and special education students. Although MTA wasn’t covered under the special education or 504 “umbrella,” I discussed my struggles with my teachers, counselor, and administrator, and was granted 504 status during my freshman year. I explain to parents, students, and teachers how having certain accommodations in place, such as extended time on tests, can give people with learning differences a “level playing field,” not an advantage as many seem to think. For those who are dyslexic and ADD/ADHD, small group administration [of tests] with limited distraction is a blessing. It is my belief that God has trusted me with this, because He has equipped me with strength and determination to overcome and help others to learn to do the same.

My hope is that any child that I come in contact with that has a learning difference will be encouraged and inspired because of meeting me. Our race, religion, socio-economic status don’t matter – dyslexia is our common ground that breaks down all barriers. My prayer is that their “computer” will become a gift they’re thankful for, and that they, in turn will encourage someone else.